Himeji is a city in between Osaka and Hiroshima. Although it has several smaller attractions, it is most widely known for its castle. It is one of the oldest original castles in Japan, and widely considered to be the most beautiful. It has an eye-catching appearence, being all white. It is nick-named Hakurojō or Shirasagijō, "White Heron Castle". It is a UNESCO world-heritage site.
From Osaka it is an easy travel to Himeji by Shinkansen. When you have an hotel in Kyoto or Osaka it makes a perfect day-trip. We, however, used it as a stop-over on the way to Hiroshima. After a 1-hour trip we were dropped in the middle of Himeji, and just a few minutes away from the castle. Basically it is one strait street from the station to the castle.
The castle towers above the city, as it always has. You're automatically drawn to it, and indeed in just a few minutes we were at the entrance of the park surrounding the castle. The park is for free, and quite beautiful when the flowers are blooming. The castle has an entrance fee (600 yen), it's quite a steep climb to the castle so we left our bags (which we always had to drag around) in one of the lockers. We could hawve left the bags also at the station, but we were lucky that the lockers were cheaper here.
Although the weather was not so nice--it was cloudy most of the day--the castle really lit up when the sun came through the clouds. On top of that we found a cherry tree that started to blossom. When it is really sakura time, this castle will look amazing.
Eventough this castle is already some 400 years old (the oldest parts of the castle are around 700 years old), it still has many well preserved elements, like the tiles on the roofs, and some of the stables. When you finally reach the, let's-call-it courtyard, you'll have a nice view of the Himeji city and the surroundings. This view will get better when you go up the main tower of the building.
On the way out of the castle, you walk past a building on your left hand side,which is a bit lower than the trail to the exit. The building has its own small courtyard and a big well in front of the main entrance. This building is said to be the place where in ancient time, the samurai would commit seppuku (or hara-kiri), the ritual suicide.
After strolling for a bit we went back to the train station and took the train to Hiroshima.